God Punishing Us One Bad Theological Statement At A Time

Someone posted this article by John Piper to a recent post of mine on homosexuality. At first reading, I thought all the references to the tornado was a joke or at least a clever analogy. It wasn’t.

Scott McKnight posts about it and asks some good questions and his post is full of comments worth skimming through.

I won’t begin to list the amount of serious issues I have with this type of thinking. It’s ignorant at best. I just can’t imagine chalking up every or any horrible natural disaster to a seemingly bad theological decision. I will give him the fact that he said it was a “warning” not a punishment. I wonder what horrible atrocity a church committed in New Orleans to cause such a disaster. Maybe they ordained a woman or something?

Update: Jason and Bill both have responses and link to tons of other great responses.

Update: I really like Greg Boyd’s response.

Update: John Piper clarifies.

Update: An awesome post by John Dyer on how discussions like this one get out of hand and how any internet discussion gone long enough ends up comparing someone to Hitler. Awesome.

16 thoughts on “God Punishing Us One Bad Theological Statement At A Time”

  1. Nathan,
    In retrospect, I guess I shouldn’t have even sent this to you. Not because it is ‘ignorant at best’ as you put it, but because it is beyond your understanding. There are Christians that hold the scriptures as authoritive, unlike you, who won’t get this.

    If you actually spend time listening to Piper preach, if you can get past the fact he preaches the Word of God as final authority (not a conversation), in a big church, is a male, uses a pulpit (no commoner stool) and has chairs for people to sit in instead of a bunch of ghetto couches, you might begin to get it. But I don’t see you getting past those things from past hurts in the church, to actually learn from a man of God, like John Piper.
    And yeah, they likely have loads of women in eldership. No real surprises in any of it.

    Anyway, glad to hear you did finally at least read it closer to know that it was an actual tornado. Thanks for that !?!

    My God could have 100% done that last week and is justified to do it every week? Dont know if He did for sure, but it jives with my Bible. The message is repent, everywhere and everyone, repent. Goodness, even the red letters, some people seem stubborn to only read, say it over and over. Look to Jesus and repent.

    The question isn’t why He did that last Wednesday, but why not every Wednesday.

    I’d list scripture, but Piper already did, and it didn’t matter.

    Afraid to read what your fellow bloggers are going to do to this! Yikes.


  2. Hey Mark, I would have found it anyway, the blogosphere went nuts over his post. I probably wouldn’t have done a small little post about it though if you didn’t link to it. Did you read the comments on his own site? It’s not like it’s just a bunch of bible haters that had problems with what he said. The guys I linked to are well respected authors and theologians, not just blogger hacks like me :)

    It seems like you don’t get me much at all or I’m misreading your sarcasm. But you are right, I want nothing to do with Piper because he preaches from the Bible (I prefer to sit in a circle with uneducated people and guess at what its saying), in a big church (which I hate and have no use for), is a male (cause I actually where a wig when i preach and speak an octave higher), he preaches from a pulpit (the wood in front of him is just not the right type of oak like the wood we sit on), and the chairs (we all know that salvation can’t come to those on chairs).

    I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure they don’t allow woman in real leadership (ie any position where they would have authority over men).

    It seems like you and I are coming at it from two different angles, yet you are having a hard time respecting me or my angle. I’m pretty sure it’s not “beyond my understanding” and just because I approach the scriptures different than you doesn’t mean that you can’t hold a conversation about them with me. This entire blog has mostly been about the Bible, and I just land on it differently, but you seem to think that difference means I’ve erased all authority and respect for the book.

    It is this type of assumption which splits the church unnecessarily, and it is this type of assumption that I tried very hard to point out on my homosexual posts. It will be these assumptions that splits the church over the homosexual issue. Because people come to different conclusions as you, you will start taking cheap shots at their views on biblical authority as opposed to facing in on the issue at hand and then agreeing to disagree.

    You are doing it to me right now, and I hope you can look past your disagreements with me and continue in conversation even though we seem to disagree. Like c’mon, in your comment on this post, you actually asked me if I was a sheep or a wolf. I’m not questioning your genuineness to the gospel even though I certainly disagree with you on plenty of things.

  3. Hey Nathan.

    Fair enough, I apologize for being sarcastic in a cheap sort of way. I regret doing that, and again am sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.

    I’d say the homosexual issue is a great issue for the church to divide over, when it comes to ordaining practicing gay clergy, and marrying people in homosexual relationships. A very clear divide would be good.

    Your right, Piper’s church doesn’t allow female eldership (preaching and teaching on Sunday etc.), but does allow for lots of women to lead in ministries to other women. You sounded pretty sarcastic about that. Having a housefull of women in my house, I would disagree very much that that isn’t ‘real leadership’ as you put it.

    As far as the ‘sheep or wolf’ comment I mentioned in another post, regarding your views over the gay stuff, your blog probably was not the right place to pose that question to you. Sorry for that, as well. I just hate for sheep to buy into it.


  4. Hey Mark, no worries, I wasn’t pointing it out to make you feel bad at all.

    I don’t mind the sarcasm, I really don’t (heck I responded to yours with my own).
    My issue is not the sarcasm but what you are deciding to point at. It feels like just changing the subject as opposed to actually diving into the real at hand.

    For instance – I disagree with you on homosexuality in the church therefore you start questioning my views on the Bible. Rather, argue against the actual beliefs, make fun of the actual beliefs, but don’t make it into something it isn’t.

    I used sarcasm to rip into John Piper, especially in my last comment about ordaining women. I am not questioning his devotion to Christ or his intentions to mislead the pack. Even though I disagree with Piper (on many, many issues) I do know and appreciate him as someone who is seeking God and trying to follow Jesus.

    This is what athiests end up doing to Christians and vice versa in conversations. Let’s say that a Christian holds to a literal 6000 year old world view. An atheist looks at that view and is so appalled by the thought of it, that they then assume that this Christian hates science, scientists and disbelieves every other scientific theory. Or let’s say an Atheist doesn’t believe in the intelligent design theories, a Christian will then assume that they can’t comprehend anything spiritual from God. To me, it’s all a big straw man argument, takes the focus off the actual issue to focus on new issues.

    I wouldn’t mind having the conversation about woman in leadership though, because we obviously fall into different camps on that one too.

  5. Hey Nathan. That’s a really big asumption on your part, and I would think you would want to stay on topic of this post, if I understood what you said above correctly. take care, mark.

  6. I think this Mark character is the exact kind of person that makes non-christians downright hate christians…mmmm yes, i think so. i like cheeseburgers

  7. Oh man, Nathan, this exchange is too much. Pardon me for laughing, but dang! I remember when I used to have your kind of patience…

    Oh, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, John Piper is a douche. Fuck his good intentions, hell (and the road there) are paved with ’em.

    Of course, that cuts both ways. So fuck my good intentions too; what matters is what I do… not what I intend, not what I say, not even what i believe. It all comes down to concrete, material actions.

  8. Mark,
    Your words are so dangerous. Yet, you cannot and will not be shown otherwise because your faith teaching has taught you to stay strong from the “wolves,” your way is correct and you have much scripture that backs up crazy thoughts and actions about how God is working (insert Noah, Job, etc here).

    I don’t like it one bit and even if it was true – damn you for spouting off how your God acts/worked. People die, lives were ruined, however you can sleep easy because you just understand your God to be doing some good ol teaching. Thats sad and lazy on your behalf.

    God has lost his authority in these times not because we have lost our way but because those who claim to know the way are such dicks about it that God, whom uses his church and his people to be his image are lost.

    People are disgusted with the church and I don’t blame them.
    If your new born died suddenly screw anyone who said its because you’re a sinner. We are called to Love, not to be a dick about how we “think” God is going about his business.

  9. “Oh, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, John Piper is a douche. Fuck his good intentions, hell (and the road there) are paved with ’em.”

    I think it’s conspicuous that a person who goes out of his way to make room for GLBT people in his life has no patience at all for someone who differs with him. I hope the irony isn’t lost on everyone but me.

  10. Ah, yes, the classic, ‘if you’re so tolerant, why won’t you tolerate my intolerance’ line. Ironic? Maybe. Boring? Most certainly. This is the sort of argument that sounds good to a first year bible college student… but I expect more from you, Tom.

    So, just to make things painfully obvious, I will point out that (the vast majority of) the members of the LGBT community are not writing theology in the service of Death. Piper is.

  11. Dan,

    I read your blog from time to time and basically you argue this way: conservative, Evangelical-type Christians are more ofen than not intolerant of LGBT people so LGBT people shouldn’t have to take them seriously. This cuts both ways. You are intolerant of those of us in the conservative Christian community. You call us names, mock and slander us (all perhaps in the service of “Death??”). Why should anyone in this camp take you seriously?

    I could go on with quotes from people within the LGBT community but that won’t serve any purpose. At least not in my view.


  12. Moreover, why should people take you seriously when you make such a mammoth, sweeping accusation like you just did against Piper and not even have the decency to tell us what you mean by “in service of” and “Death.” (The Capital D is a tad ominous).

  13. Tom,

    I know that many Christians have a near pathological drive to be ‘taken seriously’ but, to be honest, I don’t particularly care if you take me seriously. It really doesn’t matter what you do or don’t think of me. However, what I expect you to do — as a follower of Jesus and as a person capable of at least some critical thinking — is take some of the issues raised seriously. Well, actually, ‘expect’ is too strong of a word. Instead, let me say that that is what I would like you to do, even though I don’t expect you to do it.

    So, if you can get over your offense, I think you will find that I’ve actually raised some solid points on my blog related to Christianity and sexuality. As far as I can tell, the only name calling I’ve done on my blog is specifically related to Piper and Grudem and I don’t think I’ve said anything slanderous about Conservatives in general. Of course, you may see it as slander for me to talk about the ways in which Conservative physically and sexually abuse their gay children, but I’m just reporting facts there.

    Furthermore, I should point out that you’re addressing a strawman when you move this conversation into a discussion of ‘tolerance’. I’ve never been about open-ended, acritical tolerance (vs. some sort of strict Conservative elitism or exclusivism). Rather, I’ve been exploring how we create, establish, and sustain boundaries around the community of faith to which we claim membership (I’ve never said there should be no boundaries at all — as most obviously demonstrated in the paper I posted regarding boundaries around the Eucharist). This is why there is nothing ironic about speaking harshly about Piper while also speaking of welcoming people of various sexualities (by the way, if you want to hear a more sustained criticism of Piper, you could start with four or five recent posts on Halden’s blog).

    Of course, I don’t expect you to be able to get over this strawman very easily. It’s almost always the same — talk about establishing different boundaries than those recognized by Conservatives and many of them go off about the evils of postmodern liberal tolerance, talk about alternative hermeneutical methods and many of them go off about postmodern liberal relativism, and so on. Of course, these accusations are usually inaccurate and a way of avoiding directly addressing the issue at hand (not to mention boring).

  14. Dan,

    I’m more aware of this issue than you are aware. I’ve read semi-widely and I’d like to think that I’m more open minded than you think. I concede that there are some points which you have raised which I have no answer for at this time. But all this is besides the point.

    I find it interesting that dispite everything you say you still don’t take “the other side” seriously. You make it clear that you can’t expect me too look at the issues objectively. I also find it conspicuous that you accuse me of tearing down a straw man but you don’t say anything that would support this claim except some vaacuous comment about boundries.

    I will read the posts you reccomend.

  15. Hey Tom,

    I will take ‘the other side’ seriously (which is why I read what is written on both sides… and why I’m actually slotted to discuss this subject with one of Canada’s most renowned Evangelicals), but I’ve got to be given something to take seriously. In this case, I think the tangent you bring in (re: tolerance) doesn’t address the topic at hand, and is an escape often employed by Conservatives in this discussion. I tried to illustrate that a bit in my above remark, but I guess that came across as vacuous. Not sure how… What I mean is that discussing where and how one places the boundaries around one’s faith community is not the same thing (at all) as conversations I have encountered around ‘tolerance’.

    Anyway, sorry for coming off so strongly. I’ve said it before, but I’m probably not the best dialogue partner on this subject because I’ve got a bit of a short fuse in relation to this issue. However, I’m glad you are reading widely on this and being open-minded.


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